A Peek at the Creative Space of Liza Woodruff
The other day I mentioned the blog The Dust of Everyday Life, and today I have the pleasure of featuring one of their artists, Liza Woodruff. Liza has been working as a professional illustrator for 13 years and has illustrated 18 books. She studied illustration at The Art Institute of Boston, during which time she also interned with Horn Book. Among the titles she’s illustrated are Amanda Bean’s Amazing Dream, Little Bo Peep, and Dancing with Daddy.
Three of her books will be published this year including Jack and Jill published by The Child’s World in August, Ten on the Sled by Kim Norman to be published in October by Sterling, and now available for sale at a physical or virtual bookstore near you. . .
The publisher’s description of How About a Kiss for Me? written by Todd Tarpley reads:
Sounds like a great pick for a Father’s Day gift!
In addition to The Dust of Everyday Life, Liza also contributes to New Laces in Old Sneakers, a group blog kept with six other illustrators. You can also learn more about her by visiting her website and her personal blog.
I live with my husband and two children in a 150 year old farmhouse in Vermont. My studio is in a corner room on the first floor.
It’s a great space, but because it’s not in the center of the house, I am pretty far from the wood stove. This means it can get pretty cold in the winter. I have room for three desks, a bookshelf, and my computer stuff. My studio’s four windows look out onto the yard and let in lots of light.
We live in a pretty rural area, so there are lots of birds and critters outside, though I really only see birds from my window because the dogs scare bunnies and other things away. Lately, I have been able to keep an eye on the fat squirrel that sits right in the bird feeder and stuffs himself with sunflower seeds. I can also see the weeds growing in my flower and vegetable gardens.
During the school year, I get up in the morning and have to get the kids ready and out the door for school. Once they are on the bus, I usually sit at the computer with a cup of coffee and catch up on emails and look around on the internet a bit.
I then try to work for a few hours before I break for some lunch and exercise or walk the dogs. There are a couple of hours left to work after lunch before the kids are home from school. When I am working on a big deadline, I will start work after dinner and continue late into the night. It is so quiet, it is actually a nice time to work. This is good because night becomes my work time during the summer break.
My work is done with watercolors and colored pencils. I use Arches 300 lb hot press watercolor paper. It is nice and thick and does not need to be stretched. I scan my work onto the computer and sometimes clean up the jpegs in Photoshop, but the art itself is created traditionally with paper, pencil and paint.
Lately, I have added some pastel to my work to punch up the color a little. Here’s an example with pastel added to the sky.
I have some shelves in my studio where I keep my favorite things.
They contain so many special things, it is hard to pick just three. I have saved favorite animals and toys from my childhood, and I also display some of the things that my children have made for me which are special to me. You can see my old doll Amanda Jane and a ceramic heart that my son made. On the wall, I put up a favorite snow globe collage that my daughter made.
The one ritual I have is to start a project by cleaning up my workspace. I need clean surfaces to work on because the general clutter that accumulates during the time I am working on a project can become pretty distracting. On my desk, I use a blank piece of paper as a blotter and a white background to have beneath the tracing paper I work on. I write notes and doodle on it as I work, so when I start a new project, the first thing I do is replace it.
When I am sketching, I really need to use my brain, so I will either work in silence, or listen to some quiet music. I have very eclectic music taste and I like anything from classical music to the Beastie Boys.
When I paint, I love to listen to audio books or radio programs.
I like to drink coffee and tea while I work. Though I love to snack on things like yogurt covered pretzels, eating while working doesn’t usually work out that well. My fingers get all gooey and then I smear my artwork.
The thing that helps me stay in my chair the most is a good audio book. I sit to listen to the story, which gets me started, and then I get to a certain point in my work where I am really engrossed, and that has a momentum of its own.
Getting started on a project is the hardest part of the illustration process for me. It takes me a long time to figure out who the characters are and what they are like. Once I have a full sense of what they look like and their personalities, the drawing becomes much easier.
I would share my space with my friend Peggy who is a botanical illustrator. We have been friends since art school and used to enjoy working together when we both lived in Boston. We share ideas and push each other to challenge ourselves in our work. It’s too bad she lives all the way in Colorado! Instead I have to share my studio with my dog Emerson, who likes to keep me company while I work.
You can be working even when you are not sitting with pencil and paper. Refill your well of creativity while out in the world by making mental note of what you feel and observe. An hour or two alone doing something outside of your work, and the reflection that goes along with it can be a great source of creativity. This advice is loosely paraphrased from Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way.
I have also been told over and over to draw as often as you can and it’s true. The more you draw the better you get.